GW Climbs ‘Coolest Schools’ List for Sustainable Achievement

University-wide efforts earn GW the No. 12 spot on the Sierra Club’s list of the nation’s greenest schools.

Cool Schools
August 12, 2014

By Brittney Dunkins

The George Washington University was recognized for sustainable achievement on Sierra Magazine’s list of the 162 greenest schools in the nation, according to data released Tuesday.

GW climbed 11 spots to No. 12 this year on the seventh annual list of “America’s Coolest Schools” developed by the Sierra Club, an environmental nonprofit organization, following a banner year of promoting sustainable practices university-wide.

“This accolade is the culmination of the collaborative efforts of university departments, schools and members of our community,” Director of the Office of Sustainability Meghan Chapple said. “From green building to energy conservation, waste management and sustainability-focused academics, the GW community has come together to forward our mission to become a leader in sustainability among colleges and universities.”

The Sierra Club evaluates colleges and universities using the Campus Sustainability Data Collector, a survey developed in partnership with the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), the Princeton Review and the Sustainable Endowments Institute.

GW earned the recognition following an evaluation of data submitted to the AASHE’s Sustainability and Tracking Assessment and Rating System (STARS), a voluntary reporting database. The university is among 62 universities who have earned a gold rating through the STARS system.

This is the sixth year that the university has participated in the Sierra Club’s list and Ms. Chapple said the sizable jump in GW’s standing is a reflection of efforts to continually raise the bar for sustainable achievement.

The university has led the way in green building, earning seven LEED Gold certifications for campus projects and the first LEED Platinum rating for a university building in D.C. for the newly opened Milken Institute School of Public Health Building—the highest rating from the U.S. Green Building Council.

Students have been engaged in sustainable activities, whether volunteering in the campus GroW Garden, participating in GW Eco-Challenge or pursuing their academic passions through the minor in sustainability, which was established in fall 2012.

The cross-disciplinary undergraduate minor has grown to include 140 students who take classes in a range of subjects in all six schools, dubbed “green leaf courses.” In addition to the unique Sustainability 101 foundation class—which is team-taught by professors from a variety of disciplines—courses for the upcoming semester include oceanography, philosophy and interior design, among others.

Members of the university community have also engaged in sustainable practices through the Division of Operations’ Green Office Certification program, which recently awarded its first certificate to the GW School of Business Department of Undergraduate Programs for encouraging green practices such as recycling plastic bags and batteries.

The Division of Operations Assistant Director of Zero Waste and Logistics Andres Harris and Recycling Coordinator Kristian Ferguson joined the university last year to lead the zero-waste efforts and single-stream recycling program in support of GW’s goal of diverting 50 percent of waste by 2017.

Collectively, these efforts support GW’s comprehensive sustainability strategy which includes the Ecosystems Enhancement Strategy that encourages campus community members to be better stewards of the local environment; the climate action plan, launched in 2010; and the GWater plan, announced in 2011.

“From signing onto the Real Food Challenge in April to joining American University and the George Washington University Hospital to reduce our carbon footprint by sourcing renewable energy through the Capital Partners Solar Project, we are committed to furthering the our sustainability goals,” Ms. Chapple said. “The rewards gained from these efforts will not only benefit the university, but our community as a whole.”